Italy Denies Entry to Another Migrant Rescue Ship - Interior Minister

  • Italy Denies Entry to Another Migrant Rescue Ship - Interior Minister

Italy Denies Entry to Another Migrant Rescue Ship - Interior Minister

As such Malta will not take the said vessel in its ports, the statement said. "This could compromise all the work and cooperation between us over the past few years".

Mayors in Naples, Messina, Reggio Calabria, and Palermo stood against the poll-topping, recently installed Interior Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini Sunday after he said the migrant ship Aquarius would be turned away from Italy, reports Italy's Il Giornale.

A private rescue ship carrying 629 migrants remained at sea Sunday evening after more than a day of not receiving permission to dock in either Italy or the small Mediterranean island nation of Malta.

Doctors Without Borders operates the Aquarius ship, together with the SOS Mediterranean Organisations.

Salvini, the leader of the far-right League, was rejected by Malta who said the ship fell under Italy's jurisdiction.

On Sunday, Salvini said Italy was saying "no to human trafficking, no to the business of illegal immigration". All passengers were offloaded to the Aquarius to be taken to land. The rescued people include 123 unaccompanied minors, 11 children and seven pregnant women.

The Aquarius and its passengers were caught up in a crackdown promoted by the right-wing partner in Italy's new populist government, which has vowed to stop the country from becoming the "refugee camp of Europe".

The closest, safest port, excluding Libya, was Lampedusa, however, Italian Home Affairs Minister Matteo Salvini ordered all of his country's ports closed to the ship.

"The boat is now heading north towards a secure port", SOS Mediterranee tweeted without specifying its destination, though virtually every such migrant boat over the past five years ended up in Italy.

Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said Italy's refusal to allow the Aquarius ship to dock at an Italian port risks "creating a risky situation for all those involved".

The migrants had been rescued during a series of operations Saturday by Italian maritime ships, cargo vessels and the Aquarius itself. The Rome-based rescue coordination center gave the instructions.

SOS Mediterranee said Maltese search-and-rescue authorities were contacted by their Italian counterparts "to find the best solution for the well-being and safety" of the people on the ship.

One Aquarius crew member, Alessandro Porro, told Italian news channel Sky TG24 that they desperately needed to know which port to go to.

Mr Salvini says he is considering action against organisations rescuing migrants at sea.

For years the European Union has largely ignored Italy's rising fury at being left to deal with the migration crisis (even when it came from more politically acceptable figures like Matteo Renzi) but with Mr Salvini in charge, that may no longer be possible. The lawlessness in Libya has made it a popular place for migrants to try to depart for Europe.